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  • Tea Southwell

Reading Trans Movement

Reading Trans Movement is a local activist group that aims to address issues surrounding trans people, and to provide visibility and a community for trans people living in the area. I had the chance to speak to one of its founders, Mari, to hear more about what exactly they do, have done, and how to get involved.

“What exactly is the Reading Trans Movement?”

So, we started as an organisation in April 2022 in response to a talk being hosted on campus that, in our opinion, was arguing that trans people, or gender identity altogether, should be left out of the conversion therapy ban. Obviously, we had severe problems with this as a concept, we didn’t want this on our campus; so we worked together - we had two days - to get together a protest and we did, we managed it, and there was a lot of hard work involved from myself and several other people - all of us current reading students or alumni. We put together that protest and afterwards we worked really hard on publicity. We realised that what we’d done is created this really useful resource. We had a Discord, we had this community of people who were very passionate, and we realised that we should really, really treasure that resource and use it. And we had had chats about what we were going to do with it afterwards but nothing had really come about until the murder of Brianna Ghey back in February. At that point I decided to organise a vigil - this was at the point where there were only a couple [of] vigils popping up around the country - and we got on that and organised it with Reading Pride, who helped to give us resources because we’re not an official organisation [and] we don’t really have funding or anything so… 

Since then we did a march on Trans Day of Visibility and we’re just trying to do stuff as and when we can.

“Do you have anything planned for the future?”

We are really excited to get involved - unfortunately it’s a bit too late this year - but we really want to run, or help run, a Reading trans pride. Hopefully next year - we’ve been chatting with some key queer figures in Reading about this and they’ve been behind this the whole time - so we really want to see this come to fruition within the next two years. We will also be trying to do other things, things like Trans Day of Visibility, and, for the most part, keep an eye out for when things need to happen and then, when they do, we deal with them.

“How has the Reading Trans Movement helped you and how can it help other trans people?”

It’s certainly done wonders for my sense of self worth, I assure you, but also it’s been really good to improve visibility of trans people in Reading, and see how many of us there are, and how passionate everyone is, and also hearing people’s stories, how much these events have meant to them emotionally, really has meant a lot to me. Providing that space, for experiencing that trans joy especially was something that things like the Trans Day of Visibility were really good for, but also that queer rage, that sort of rage that the Brianna Ghey vigil really showed, they really empower me and make me want to keep fighting.

“Could we talk a bit about trans healthcare, in Reading in particular?”

Gender-affirming healthcare in Reading is a complicated topic. You should absolutely, 100% go to your GP and get on the waitlist for the Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) but you should also be very aware that you will not be waiting for that wait list to end - you will be waiting for healthcare reform because, at this point, we’re looking at somewhere between ten and twenty - closer to twenty - years on that wait list. So, really, what we need to be doing is putting pressure on that wait list by having people continue to sign up but also, really, we need to look at other options. So we do have people in Reading who talk about DIY [Hormone Replacement Therapy] and there’s always ways that you can get in contact, that we can help you get in contact. Otherwise, if you can afford it - that is, unfortunately, the reality of the system we live in. There are private clinics such as GenderGP and The Gender Clinic and they can provide you with gender-affirming healthcare, whether that be testosterone, oestrogen, and they can provide things like progesterone, and progesterone-only prescriptions.

I will personally endorse DIY with the caveat that I cannot legally endorse anything illegal. I cannot endorse purchasing testosterone but I’m also a big supporter of the fact that if that’s all you can do then that’s all you can do, and there are avenues towards that. What I’d recommend to people is that - if you are going to do DIY, which is a perfectly valid thing to do and you should not be ashamed, or let people shame you, for doing - then you should go to your GP; tell your GP that you’re doing DIY. They can’t stop you, but they’ll usually help you and give you blood tests, and make sure you’re doing it safely. So, if you are doing DIY for any multitude of reasons then please talk to your GP about it - they will not stop you and they will be able to help you.

“What does a healthcare reform look like to you? Is that an informed consent model or something else?”

So, I am a supporter of informed consent. Healthcare is not my specialty, I must confess, it all goes over my head a little bit but from what I’ve seen I think an informed consent model which everyone can easily access, with some completely reasonable safeguards, would be great. I know a few trans people who are against informed consent, but mostly because they want even better, even easier, access to trans healthcare. But, yes, I am pro informed consent. I think that’s the only way, reasonably, that we’re going to see anything resembling a solution to the waiting list issues. I don’t agree with the waiting lists because I don’t believe in trans medicalisation but that’s a whole other thing…

“We’ve just talked about the waiting lists being ridiculously long - I think the shortest I’ve seen is five years, if that. I think that a lot of people don’t realise what the healthcare situation is actually like for trans people. There’s this media narrative of people walking into a gender clinic and getting prescribed HRT on the spot, which we know is absolutely not the case. Do you want to talk about trans awareness and education, and what Reading Trans Movement does in terms of outreach and public interaction?”

We don’t ourselves do much in terms of public education. We know that some other groups do that but it’s a tricky one. It’s almost like you’re fighting the media on that - and we are a lot smaller than the media - and yeah there’s this idea that you can just walk in and walk out with hormones which is just so, so painfully wrong. First there’s the fact that for the past fifteen-twenty years trans people have had to basically lie because the gatekeeping in these clinics is absurd. You have to pass these faux-mental tests that are like ‘are you presenting as feminine or masculine enough’ in a really misogynistic way. Yes, it’s important to educate the public but it’s a fight to do sometimes. Not only do you have to be in a place where the public can hear you and see you; you also have to get them to listen. And finding places where you can do that is very difficult. I think that it’s not going to be the goal of Reading Trans Movement; we’re very realistic about what we can accomplish as a local activist organisation.

We are not an official organisation for many reasons, one of those being that when we need to do something we can do it, without having to worry about facing legal action as anything other than as individuals.

“Has Reading Trans Movement faced much bigotry and negativity?”

The only time we’ve had any real backlash was the protest - mostly due to the publicity of that - and what it resulted in was a lot of hate online from specific areas. We actually managed to get into the Telegraph, where they talked about ‘crazy students at Reading’ or something like that. Honestly, we’ve had a really positive response. When we did our march through the town centre we had people raising their arms, people just sitting in bars and cafes outside on the street, showing their support to us as we marched past. We’ve had really positive responses from the local community.

“How can people get involved with or contact Reading Trans Movement?”

We have a website and there are links to all of our social media on there. Links to our Instagram and our Twitter (now known as X), if it still exists at the time of publishing, where we tend to post if we are doing anything. If you want to get involved with the organisation then the best place to do that is our Discord, where you can interact with us directly and there’s more of a community so you can ask things, talk about things, and be there if we have callouts for help and things.


Reading Trans Movement:

Disclaimer: Undergoing hormone replacement therapy without medical supervision or advice from a trained healthcare provider could result in negative side effects and pose health risks. That being said, I myself am using DIY oestrogen and, anecdotally, it's been pretty sweet.


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